Dr. Robert Berg: Professor of New Testament
July 26, 2013
Though Dr. Robert Berg may have left the Big Apple for the Midwest when he joined the Evangel University faculty in 1989, he is still a New Yorker at heart.
After growing up as a pastor’s kid, Dr. Berg majored in Political Science at Wheaton College with aspirations to serve in a congressional office in Washington, D.C. However, that opportunity never came about, and a year after graduating he shifted his goals to pursue a career teaching theology in an educational setting. He went on to do pastoral work and earn an Master of Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Drew University.
Today he is a professor of New Testament at Evangel.
Dr. Berg married his wife, Jane, in 1981. A trained opera singer, Jane has performed around the world, directed the Springfield Regional Opera, taught voice for many years at Evangel and now does the same at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri. The Bergs have one son, David, who recently graduated from the University of Missouri. They also have a dog named Mollie.
Dr. Berg’s hobbies include listening to classical music, keeping up with modern art and following his hometown New York Yankees. He says his ideal vacation would be spent in the city, going to art museums and attending music concerts and plays.
What do you like most about teaching at Evangel?
The best part of my job is that I get paid to do what I love to do. I am a natural learner, which means that I measure a day by what I have or haven’t learned. Teaching at Evangel means that I am in an environment where learning is job No. 1. That is true for those of us called “teachers” as it is for “students.” Instructors at Evangel see themselves as fellow-learners; we don’t understand it all, but we are good at helping students strive toward understanding a complex world. I love my colleagues and the students I get to work with each year.
What are the advantages of Evangel’s new School of Theology and Church Ministries?
Every year, Evangel graduates move into pastoral positions around the country. However, since Evangel was specifically designed for students who did not intend to enter pastoral ministry, we did not offer courses related to pastoral practice, such as preaching, counseling or church administration. With the new School of Theology and Church Ministries, this deficiency is a thing of the past. The consolidation of Evangel with Central Bible College and the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary means that all these courses and the faculty to teach them are now available to our students. Students from CBC will benefit from a broader education and theology students who have been at Evangel will benefit from a much more complete ministerial education.
You teach many of the interdisciplinary general education courses. How are these courses important to a student’s education?
Students in past years took the rather predictable array of introductory liberal arts courses, such as history, literature, theology, arts and music. Many times, though, students did not see how what they were learning in these courses had anything to do with each other. So students now take a series of courses that cover all of these fields of study in an integrated way.
Learning in Frameworks courses is important because life is not like high school, where your school day is segmented into hours of subjects that are unrelated to one another. In real life, everything comes at you and you have to make sense of it as a whole. And culture is changing in such a way that it will be ever more important to make connections between apparently different fields. College graduates who can think across traditional lines of separation and who can adjust to changing circumstances will be better prepared for success. I personally enjoy teaching these courses because they allow me to use everything I have studied in so many different fields in the learning experience.
What is the best part about Evangel as a whole?
The best part of Evangel is that this journey of learning takes place in a Pentecostal Christian context. What that means practically is that we realize that the intellect is only one aspect of the human person. Our ultimate purpose in life is to serve and worship our Maker. We do that as we hone our minds in academic study. We also do that as we mature psychologically as we develop healthy relationships with others on campus. And we do this as we grow spiritually, whether through chapel services, interactions in the residence hall or in concerted study.
What advice do you have for prospective students?
I have two pieces of advice for the prospective student. First, think long term. That is, don’t make the mistake of cutting corners in your college education. The “bottom line” is certainly important, but you must remember that you are investing in yourself for an entire life. The community college, for example, may be cheaper, but you will not benefit from the (once-in-a-lifetime) integrated experience at a place like Evangel. Second, prepare yourself for college by reading something that stretches you – that you wouldn’t normally pick up. You will find that college is one big stretch, and some minor stretching before you start will be a good warm up for the real exercise to come.